Dietary patterns, the Alternate Healthy Eating Index and plasma sex hormone concentrations in postmenopausal women

Int J Cancer. 2007 Aug 15;121(4):803-9. doi: 10.1002/ijc.22728.


To evaluate the association between overall diet and sex hormones concentrations, we collected blood from 578 postmenopausal women ages 43 and 69 years in 1989 or 1990. Food intake was measured in 1990 via a food frequency questionnaire. We calculated the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), and dietary patterns were identified by factor analysis. The cross-sectional association between diet and estrogens, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) were evaluated with linear regression and adjusted for energy and other potential confounders. We found a higher AHEI score was associated with lower concentrations of estradiol, free estradiol, and higher concentrations of SHBG. The prudent pattern, with higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, was not associated with any sex hormones. The Western pattern, which represents higher intakes of red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets and desserts, was associated with a higher level of estradiol and lower concentrations of SHBG. Further adjustment for BMI attenuated these results except for free estradiol (5th vs. 1st quintile = 0.09 vs. 0.11 pg/mL, p for trend = 0.03). In addition, the AHEI was inversely associated with estradiol among those with BMI > 25, and Western pattern with SHBG among those with BMI < 25. In conclusion, we observed inverse associations between the AHEI score and several estrogens, and it was positively associated with plasma levels of SHBG. In contrast, the Western pattern was positively associated with estrogen levels and inversely with SHBG. However, these associations appeared to be largely accounted for by BMI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Postmenopause*
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Estradiol